Is Seasonal Eating Just Plain SMART?

To every thing there is a season.
~ Ecclesiastes 3

Winter grapefruit is sweet, delicious and nutritious.

Eating fresh produce in season is not a new idea as you can see from the quote above. More recently, our ancestors ate seasonally out of necessity. The industrial revolution brought many advances to the ways we store and cook food, but it wreaked havoc on our diet. We began to eat strawberries in February and asparagus in November. We distanced ourselves from the perfect harmony of nature, and we restricted our diet to a few favorite fruits and vegetables—most likely those we grew up eating at the family dinner table. 

There’s no simpler way to reboot your diet than to eat with the seasons. Let’s look at the benefits you’ll gain when you eat fresh-from-the-farm fruits and vegetables.

Luscious spring artichokes. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Vinopal.

5 Benefits of Eating With the Seasons

1. Tastes better—Do you remember how good summer produce used to taste when you bought it from a truck on the side of the road? Those fruits and vegetables were picked at the height of ripeness. That’s the only way to ensure maximum flavor from produce. When you buy produce out of season and it has to travel halfway around the world to get to you, it’s picked long before it’s ripe. Unfortunately, it never ripens properly, so you don’t receive the inimitable fresh flavor.
2. Supplies higher nutritional value—According to the FDA, fresh, vine-ripened produce is packed with more antioxidants and nutrients than produce that was picked before its time.
3. Saves money—Eating seasonally means eating what’s in season in your region. The closer you eat to the source, the more money you save in transportation.
4. Adds variety to your diet—When you’re not eating berries and stone fruits year-round, you’re eating a wider variety of fruit out of necessity. As a benefit, you’ll expand your palate. 
5. Saves the environment—Eating seasonally allows you to support your local small farmer while you cut down on pollution from trucking.

Tomatoes and strawberries burst with flavor in the summer.

Second-Best Alternative to Fresh Produce

According to Columbia University, “Frozen vegetables actually retain a high proportion of their original nutrients. Sometimes, though, they are blanched (dipped in hot water), which preserves color and texture, but may compromise some vitamins.” When freezing your own in-season produce, you control the amount of additional salt and sugar, so DIY freezing can be a better option than buying frozen fruits and vegetables.

If you want to extend the season without sacrificing nutrition, start by reading EatingWell magazine’s “How to Freeze 16 Fruits and Vegetables.” For more information, read The University of Nebraska’s comprehensive guide, “Home Freezing of Fruits and Vegetables.”

Live a Little—Shake Up Your Diet
How many times have you run across a fruit or vegetable you’ve never eaten and thought to yourself, “I don’t like that”? Fess up—everyone does it. Why not throw caution to the wind and try something new? You might discover a new favorite fruit or vegetable.